Paths are Many
by H. H. Sri Swami Satchidananda
The purpose of any religion is to educate us about our spiritual unity. Everything that God created belongs to all of us and to our future generations. The entire world belongs to us, to be shared by us as one family of God. Nobody can put a label and say, "This is mine alone." All the resources of the world are given to us for our use, and we have a responsibility as caretakers on this earth.
Truth is one. That is why my motto has always been, "Truth is One, Paths are Many." The great sages and saints have experienced the same truth but only expressed it in different ways. It does not matter what name you give to the nameless Spirit. The only way to eternal peace and joy is to realize that Christhood or Buddhahood or Krishnahood. But when we miss that point, we fight in the name of Spirit.
There are so many things that can separate and divide us. We say, "I’m an American," or "I’m an Australian." "I am white," or "I am black." "I am fat," or "I am thin," "I am a boy," or "I am a girl." "I am Christian," or "I’m Hindu," or "I’m a Jew." My color may be different from your color. Her color may be different from somebody else’s color. We are all of various colors and hues because nature never makes duplicates. There is constant variety throughout the creation. But inside, we all have the same light; we are all made in the image of God. The same light is shining through many different colored lamps.
When we look at the outside alone, we will only see differences. But when we go a little deeper, we see the oneness. Don’t we say that "beauty is only skin deep." Scratch less than one millimeter beneath the surface and we all have the same color blood. So, if we see the difference, we are different; we are separate. But if we see the Spirit, we are the same. I am you, you are me; we are not different. We have all the differences and individual distinctions, but we are so much more. These definitions are what you use in order to function in this world. The challenge given to each and every one of us is to remember that oneness behind the outer differences.
God gave each of us a different costume, different makeup, a different role, in order to play our part in the world. But behind all these differences we are all one in Spirit. When we forget that and identify ourselves with the superficial differences, we lose sight of the spiritual oneness. So, religion asks us to get back to that original state. The very meaning of the word "religion" is to "bind back;" to get back to your original oneness.
When we argue about what is the right path and whose religion is best, there is something terribly wrong with our approach. Then, we are looking at the superficial side of religion and forgetting to go deep into its foundation. If we did go deep, we would find that all the religions ultimately talk about the same God, the same Truth; but somehow we ignore that common base and continue to fight over the superficial aspects.
It is time for us to recognize that there is one truth and many approaches. As long as you are a spiritual seeker, follow your spiritual path with your goal in mind. Don’t worry about other people’s paths. Whatever path you choose according to your temperament and taste, stay with that consistently while respecting all other paths. Though God can be approached through any form or name, if you keep changing from one idea of God to another, you won’t progress at all. You can’t travel on ten roads at the same time, even if they’re all going to Rome.
So, let us resolve not to fight in the name of religion. When the understanding comes that essentially we are one appearing as many, then all the other problems—physical and material—will be solved. Until then, they will never be solved because the basic cause for all the world problems is the lack of understanding of this spiritual unity. Wherever you go say, "We look different, but we are all one in Spirit. Hello, brother; hello sister." No religion is superior and no religion is inferior. We are all doing God’s work. We should learn to live together and work toward one goal: to share and care, love and give.